Lagos – The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta lamented the sloth in the prosecution of oil theft suspects in the region saying this contributed to the escalation of such crimes.
“The slow judicial process in the country had become a clog in the wheel of progress in the JTF’s fight against the menace of oil theft,” JTF Spokesman, Lt Col Onyema Nwachukwu, said.
He bemoaned the fact that most suspects awaiting trial returned to the crime shortly after the courts granted them bail.
Nwachukwu however commended government moves to tackle the problem through the establishment of a special court to prosecute suspects.
The National Economic Council last month approved the establishment of a special court to try suspected oil thieves with existing legislation to accelerate prosecution of suspects.
“It is indeed a welcome development in as much as it will expedite the trial of oil theft suspects and give them the deserved penalties. If this happens, it will amount to a very positive deviation from the past when arrested oil thieves make a mockery of the courts. Presently, they know that they will be left off the hook soon as we hand them over for prosecution. If the special court is established as promised, our efforts will no longer amount to futility,” Nwachuku said.
The Niger Delta is among the areas hardest hit by oil theft in the world.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of the commodity, oil theft is believed to exceed 180 000 barrels of oil per day.
That amounts to more than US$7 billion of lost revenue at current oil prices.
– CAJ News